Cyndia Sieden, Christiane Oelze, Constanze Backes, Michael Schade, Gerald Finley, Harry Peeters; Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
Archiv 449 166-2
With stiff competition from Norrington on EMI and Östman on L’Oiseau-Lyre, Gardiner’s Magic Flute enters the period instrument stakes somewhat belatedly. It offers no major musicological revelations – no reinstated numbers or serious reorderings that often come with period Mozart these days. Its only textual novelties are the trumpets and drums at the start of Act I, where in accordance with Mozart’s original manuscript Tamino is pursued by a lion rather than a snake, and a selection of numbers, presented as an appendix, sung to the alternative texts given in the first printed score.
As a performance, it’s much as one would expect from Gardiner – the tempi sometimes too brisk for comfort, and featherlight textures on occasion seeming to defy gravity. But on its own terms, and with the dialogue pruned to about half, it makes for an exhilarating and unitary experience.
The singers, as usual, are young and light of voice (Harry Peeters’s Sarastro too much so, though, judging from his transgendered appearance in the booklet’s production shot, maybe with good reason), and range from the outstanding – Christiane Oelze’s Pamina, Gerald Finley’s Papageno – to the perfectly adequate and occasionally inspired – Cyndia Sieden’s Queen of the Night and Michael Schade’s Tamino. All in all, those happy with the Norrington or Östman can rest content, but for those loyal to Gardiner’s Mozart series or without a period-instrument Zauberflöte, this won’t seriously disappoint.